The fourth Zoom meeting of Lalit’s Central Committee was a pleasure, just like the other three. Almost as good as the real thing. To see a whole group of friends, all sitting in different surroundings, talking in turn – a child or a dog popping on to the screen at the beginning or the end – is wonderful when you are in even relative confinement. One member disappeared. She SMS’d us to say she got a power cut. Another was visible and audible on Rada’s cellphone. Twice we had what we call “tea-breaks”, which are no more than “time-up” on Zoom so we all had to log in all over again, twice.
All to say we could, collectively, analyze the political situation – the Government seemingly overwhelmed and turning even more to repression, Parliament being really in crisis with a dictatorial Speaker and a Supreme Court case about suspensions of MPs, and with the formal Opposition bumbling along, waiting for Government to err. We spoke also of growing calls for a government of national unity of some kind. We all resolved to each do homework to work out how come there are so many WAPs issued. Pensioners also work? Domestic workers get 5 WAPs - one for each boss? Civil servants do informal work? Workers have multiple-jobs? Or what?
The meeting proved more than just pleasure at seeing friends, more than just the key need in a party to understand the political, economic and social reality day by day. I also learnt so much about the lockdown at grassroots. This is an important part of a political party’s role. Getting beyond one’s own viewpoint to a wider reality.
On a construction site, for example, I learnt that men do not share cigarettes any more. That implies, in the working class at least, a reasonable level of understanding of the mechanisms of the spread of Covid. No-one ever specifically told us we can’t share a cigarette during the epidemic. It is a deduction, put into practice autonomously. On this site, the workers all manage, it was reported, to keep their masks on even while doing building work. And, whenever possible, they organize themselves without supervision to keep regulation distance apart. Our member was amazed by the degree of understanding and co-operation on his site. Bann la konpran! He exclaimed.
I learnt that on buses, mask-wearing and “distancing-keeping” is respected, in general. I also learnt that there are now new police check-points stopping buses and boarding to examine passengers’ WAPs and alphabet-letter “permissions”. (It is like Palestinine under occupation.) I learnt that other “flying squads” check on respect for mask-wearing amongst in hospital staff, too. So, the “police state” nature of the bourgeois state goes on taking over.
I discovered that there are two different definitions of an “isolation ward” circulating. I had heard Rama Valayden who, from what I deduce from his over-excited radio interview, has his own definition. Each patient at, say, Jeetoo Hospital is (or should be) in his or her own room-with-toilet-bathroom, according to the Valayden dictionary. On the basis of his definition, he then accuses political adversaries of “lying”. In fact, I learnt in the Zoom meeting from hospital workers that, during Covid, each hospital declares some of their otherwise ordinary wards as “isolation wards”. The definition is that they are, as a ward, isolated from the rest of the hospital. Hospital personnel do not move freely between “isolation wards” and the rest of the hospital. This is a vital public health strategy to halt the spread of Covid in a place like a hospital. Staff on these wards all wear full PPE, protection gear like spacemen, however uncomfortable, just in case a patient may turn out, in the future, to test “positive”. They work a 24-hour shift, then get 24-hours off – thus halving the dangers of a “spill” from “isolation wards” to the rest of the world, difficult as this shift is. Patients admitted to “isolation wards” are there, if I understand right, either because they find themselves hospitalized for some other ailment but may also possibly be Covid positive but await test results; or because they have been picked up at the flu clinic, their symptoms suggesting possible Covid, also awaiting test results. I also learnt that the vast majority of patients end up getting discharged from or transferred from the “isolation ward” remaining Covid-negative throughout. So, it is a vital part of epidemiologists’ prevention strategy. I even learnt that hospital nursing staff ensure that the workers of the toilet-cleaning company have PPE when entering the bathroom-toilet section of the “isolation ward”.
On vaccines, I learnt that some people are still getting the last of the “first doses” – at Cote d’Or and somewhere else. I learnt how everyone finds the www.besafemoris.mu site very user-friendly as regards finding your new date for your second dose. I will go to Taher Bagh, for example, a week earlier than I was supposed to. Yesterday the Health Minister announced delivery of 100,000 doses of Sinopharm, a gift from China, tomorrow.
I even learnt at our Zoom meeting that you can get a Covid test done in a pharmacy in Reunion. You just present your Social Security card. Then the pharmacy claims the money back from the State.
And our Lalit Regionals are now beginning to set up Zoom-like meetings on WhatsApp, especially in Regionals where most members have smart-phones. We need to nurture our party structures in case we are in this semi-lockdown for the long haul.